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Incident Name:  Fatty Creek Patrol Plane, Condon District, Flathead National Forest
Date: 9/11/1955
Personnel: 3 lives lost
Age: 
Agency/Organization: Corsair Flight Service Stinson under contract with the US Forest Service
Position: pilot, firefighter spotter, and passenger

Summary: 

Eugene A Cole, 53, the pilot and manager of the Corsair Flight Service, of Kalispell, MT
Gene M Tuininga, 28, aerial observer, former smokejumper
Fred Wagner, 37, a passenger and friend of Cole, also of Kalispell

The three were killed in a crash of a Forest patrol plane in Fatty Creek on the Flathead National Forest, Condon District, 9/11/1955. Tuininga was the first Forest Service employee killed in Region 1 in an airplane crash while on active duty.

Stinson for type from Wikipedia, Stinson Aircraft Company

Stinson Stinson

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Maps

plane was found between Fatty Creek and Piper Creek near Cedar Lake on the Mission Range, which is about five miles southeast of Skiddoo Bay on Flathead Lake; the nearest accessible road is the Swan Valley highway seven miles to the east.

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Reports, Documentation, Lessons Learned

  • Forest History.org:

    Gene Tuininga was killed in the crash of a Forest patrol plane in Fatty Creek on the Condon District in 1955. Gene Cole, the pilot, and Fred Wagner, a passenger, were also killed in this crash. Tuininga was the first Forest Service employee killed in Region 1 in an airplane crash while on active duty.

  • Montana Death Index: Frederick Wagner

    Name: Frederick Wagner

    Event Type: Death

    Event Date: 11 Sep 1955

    Event Place: Lake, Montana

    Age: 37

    Marital Status: Married

    Birth Year (Estimated): 1918

    County: Lake

  • Montana Death Index: Eugene A Cole (first two records)

    Name: Eugene A Cole

    Event Type: Death

    Event Date: 11 Sep 1955

    Event Place: Polson, Lake County, Montana

    Age: 44

    Marital Status: Married

    Birth Year (Estimated): 1911

    County: Lake

  • Montana Death Index: Gene M Tuininga (first record)

    Name: Gene M Tuininga

    Event Type: Death

    Event Date: 11 Sep 1955

    Event Place: Polson, Lake County, Montana

    Age: 28

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Wildlandfire.com Links:

 

 

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Media Articles and Reports

Ground Party Brings Out Bodies of Crash Victims
Bodies of the three men recovered who were killed in an airplane crash.

9/13/1955 | Pay to view the full news article... (Second news article)

excerpts:

Kalispell, MT -- Eugene Cole and Fred Wagner of Kalispell, and Gene Tuininga of Belmont, Calif. were recovered yesterday and returned to Kalispell by Flathead County Coroner Sol Catron and Coroner Bill Graham of Lake County. Accompanying Catron and Graham were Frank Blackmer, regional safety officer, Moran, safety at Forest Service Missoula; Dan E. and others -- Frank Smith, Forest Service packers, and Herb Styler, alternate ranger at the Condon Ranger Station.

The party left Swan Lake about 7AM, and traveling by horseback reached the crash scene three hours later. Graham and Sol Catron returned the bodies to Kaiispell yesterday at 11 p. m.

J Herb Styler, alternate ranger of the Condon Ranger Station, discovered the crash when investigating what he thought was a forest fire. A fire usually follows a crash. He and a party of Forest Service men had been fighting two small blazes five miles away from the crash scene.

Fred Wagner is survived by his wife, Olga, and two daughters, Linda Ann, 5, and Kay Lorraine, 11. Survivors of Eugene Cole are his wife, Aunda, and daughter, Diane, 12. Gene Tuininga listed his nearest of kin as his sister, Mrs. Esther Bianchina of Belmont, Calif. Funeral services for Mr. Wagner will be tomorrow at 3:30 PM at Waggener Home. Arrangements for the funeral services of Eugene Cole are being made this afternoon. The body of Gene Tuininga is being sent to Belmont, Calif., for funeral services and burial.

The plane, a Stinson "station wagon" had left the Condon air strip two miles south of the Condon ranger station on a routine trip. The men had spotted and reported one fire to the ranger station and were rechecking the fire when the crash occurred sometime between 2:15 and 3 PM. The Stinson apparently struck a high snag in the treetops which sheared the left wing and then hit a tree approximately 18 inches wide about 40' feet above the ground. The tree was uprooted and two others were knocked down. Coroner Catron said "it appeared that the engine was developing power at the time of the crash and also that the controls were in working order. The cabling also appeared to have been in working condition".

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Photos, Videos, & Tributes

 

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Contributors to this article: Mellie

 

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